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Broad Beans

UK Garden Centre - Information about Broad Beans

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The broad bean is one of the most ancient and also one of the easiest vegetables in cultivation. From each seed about three or four square sectioned stems appear, the standard varieties growing about 4ft (120cm) tall and the dwarfs’ 12-18in (30-45cm). The fragrant white-and-black flowers are followed by leathery pods, short and broad in some varieties – long and narrow in others. Within these pods are the broad beans – round or kidney-shaped, white or green depending on the variety chosen. Picking can begin as early as the end of May if you have pampered the crop, but even the maincrop sown in the ordinary way in early April will be ready in July – the first of the garden beans to grace your table. Yet the scientists tell us that it is not really a bean at all – it is closely related to a plant grown as cattle food!

Seed facts
Points to watch for: Discard all seeds which bear small, round holes.
Expected germination time: 7-14 days
Approximate number per ounce: 15
Amount required for a 10ft double row: 2oz (56g)
Expected yield from a 10ft double row: 20lb (10kg)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 2 years.
Approximate time between autumn sowing and picking: 26 weeks
Approximate time between spring sowing and picking: 14 weeks
Ease of cultivation: Easy

Soil facts
· The ideal soil is rich and free-draining, but nearly every soil will produce an adequate crop, provided it is neither very acid nor waterlogged. Lime, if necessary, in winter.
· Pick a reasonably sunny spot which did not grow beans last year. Dig in autumn if the crop is to be sown in spring – add compost or well-rotted manure if the ground was not enriched for the previous crop. Apply a general-purpose fertilizer about 1 week before sowing.
·
Seed sowing
Plant 8in (20cm) apart in double rows, with 24in (60cm) between each set of rows. Plant 2in (5cm) deep. Sow a few extra seeds at the end of the rows. Use as transplants to fill gaps.

Calendar
· There are several ways of growing a crop which will be ready for picking in June. November sowing (Aquadulce or The Sutton) will provide beans in early June, but there can be serious losses in a severe winter. Only attempt autumn sowing if your plot is sheltered, free-draining and located in a mild area. It is a better plan to sow under cloches in February.
· Maincrop plantings begin in March and then at monthly intervals until the end of May to provide beans throughout the summer.
Sowing time: Usually March and April; less usually February to May – Under cloches or cold frame if beginning of February.
Picking time: Last week in June to first week in September; can extend from last week in May to mid-October.

Looking after the crop
· Regular hoeing will probably be necessary to keep down weeds during the early stage of the crop’s life, but watering should not be necessary before the flowers appear. If the weather turns dry when the pods are swelling it will be necessary to water copiously.
· Some form of support will probably be necessary for tall-growing varieties. Place a stout stake at each corner of the double row and then string between the posts at 12in (30cm) intervals.
· Pinch off the top 3in (7cm) of stem as soon as the first beans start to form. This will ensure an earlier harvest and also provide some degree of blackfly control. This serious pest must be kept down, so spray with Long-last if attacks persist.
· After cropping has finished, dig the plants into the soil to provide valuable green manure.

Harvesting
· When growing broad beans for the kitchen, remember that you are not trying to win a prize at the local show. Leaving the pods to reach their maximum size will provide an overwhelming flush of large and tough beans.
· Begin picking when the first pods are 2-3in (5-7cm) long – cook them whole.
· The time to pick beans for shelling is when the beans have begun to show through the pod but before the scar on each shelled bean has become discoloured – it should still be white or green.
· Remove each pod from the plant by applying a sharp downward twist.

Varieties
Longpod varieties
The long, narrow pods hanging downwards, reaching 15in (37cm) or more in length. There are 8-10 kidney-shaped beans within each pod – both green and white varieties are available. This is the best group for hardiness, early cropping, exhibiting and top yields.
Aquadulce (white): The broad bean which is the popular choice for autumn sowing. Tall, prolific, very hardy – an excellent bean for freezing.
Imperial Green Longpod (green): This tall variety has few rivals for maximum yields and extra-long pods. It is a well-established favourite, but Relon may challenge its position.
Relon (green): A giant amongst broad beans – pod lengths over 20in (50cm) with 10 beans per pod are claimed. Good for freezing – even better for the show bench.
Imperial White Longpod (white): According to some experts this old variety beats all others in yield and show-winning ability, but Hylon has appeared as a rival.
Hylon (white): One of the newer varieties which has staked a claim as the longest-podded broad bean.
Bunyard’s Exhibition (white): Not the biggest nor longest nor most delicious. Just a completely reliable old favourite – good yields, good flavour, good for freezing.
Masterpiece Longpod (green): An early cropper with green beans and a fine flavour – highly recommended for freezing.
Express (greenish white): One of the fastest maturing of all broad beans – choose it if you intend to sow in early spring. Has earned a high reputation as a heavy cropper.
Sussex Wonder Longpod (white): Early and prolific, but its main claim to fame is the broadness of its pods.
Red Epicure (reddish brown): Quite different to any other variety – the red beans turn yellow when cooked. The flavour is distinctive.

Windsor varieties
The pods are shorter and broader than those of the main group – the Longpods. There are 4-7 round beans within each pod – both green and white varieties are available. This is the best group for flavour. They are not suitable for autumn sowing and they take longer to mature than Longpods.
Green Windsor (green): A heavy cropping variety renowned for its flavour. It has given rise to a host of descendants, all claiming to be a little better – Imperial Green Windsor, Unrivalled and so on.
White Windsor (white): The white-seeded counterpart to Green Windsor. Another old favourite with longer-named modern relatives – Broad White Windsor, Giant White Windsor, Imperial White Windsor, etc.

Dwarf varieties
The dwarf, freely-branching bushes grow about 12-18in (30-45cm) high, making them the ideal choice where tall growth is not required or the site is exposed. These are the broad beans to pick for growing under cloches.
The Sutton (white): The most popular of the Dwarf varieties – much praise has been heaped on its small shoulders. ‘Ideal for small gardens’ is the usual phrase.
Bonny Lad (white): Not much to choose between this variety and The Sutton, but it does grow rather taller (15-18in (37-45cm) compared to 12in (30cm)) and the beans are white-eyed.

Troubles
See runner beans


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